Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment has won the initial right to build a casino resort at the shuttered Hellenikon International Airport in Athens, Greece.
The gaming unit of the tribe, based in Connecticut, was awarded the lone license on Monday by the Hellenic Gaming Commission (HGC). Mohegan has created a consortium with Greek construction firm GEK TERNA.
Project plans for the resort, to be known as INSPIRE Athens, call for a luxury hotel, several entertainment venues, a convention center, retail shopping, numerous restaurants, and a casino.
We understood that INSPIRE Athens was meant to symbolize more than an integrated resort,” explained Mohegan Gaming CEO Mario Kontomerkos. “It is our hope that INSPIRE Athens would be the catalyst that sparks the entire development of the Hellenikon area into the coveted Athenian Riviera, forever redefining the modern identity of Greece.”
Mohegan and GEK TERNA did not unveil what sort of investment price INSPIRE Athens would cost.
Bidding Not Over
The other bid for the Hellenikon integrated resort came from another tribal gaming power player: Hard Rock International. Owned by the Seminole Tribe in Florida, Hard Rock put forward a $1.1 billion project.
However, last week reports surfaced that the HGC rejected Hard Rock’s pitch, and the gaming regulators explanation for the denial was rather bizarre. The HGC said the tender documents did not show sufficient construction experience or the ability to meet financing criteria.
Hard Rock has become one of the globe’s largest casino operators. It has gaming resorts in seven states, plus Canada and the Dominican Republic. The company is expected to be in the running to win one of the three gaming concessions in Japan.
“Absolutely laughable,” Hard Rock Greece spokesperson Michael Karloutsos said in the aftermath. But the HGC awarding Mohegan the airport license doesn’t mean the process is over.
Hard Rock can now appeal the licensing decision. If it does – as it’s expected to do – the issue would go before an arbitration authority, which could take a month to resolve.
Whichever casino operator ultimately prevails in Athens, the end project gaming space will need to come with at least 120 table games and 1,200 table slot machines.
The casino complex is part of a larger planned destination from Lamda Development. The Greece real estate developer is investing eight billion euros ($8.88 billion) on the urban integrated development.
Along with the casino resort, Lamda reveals the new Hellenikon will feature “landmark buildings” and “state-of-the-art infrastructure.” That includes residential communities, hotels, shopping centers, family entertainment venues, museums, cultural venues, health and wellness centers, sports and recreation, business space, and schools.
Lamda says it is the largest urban regeneration in Europe, and is expected to greatly assist in Greece’s economic recovery. Lamda acquired the airport land from the Greek government in 2014. Investors in the development include Chinese conglomerate Fosun Group, Abu Dhabi’s Eagle Hills, and Latsis Group – parent company to Lamda.